You may have been familiar enough with influencers these days. According to Pixlee, they are Instagram users who have an established credibility and audience; who can persuade others by virtue of their trustworthiness and authenticity. Most brands have already collaborated with social media influencers, be it for marketing or branding purposes. But did you know that there is a new type of influencers that are on the rise? They are virtual influencers.

Who are they?

Virtual influencers are just like every other influencer. They regularly post pictures on Instagram, interact with their followers and even endorses brands. But the different is that they are not real human beings. According to Izea, virtual influencers “personalities” are entirely fictional. They are paired with animated images from digital artists with the ability to accurately recreate the subtle features of a human face.

One famous example of virtual influencers is Lil Miquela, who debuted on Instagram in April 2016.

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I feel like I’m in Ghost World 👻🌏📹 Should I pull an Enid and dye these space buns green?? 🤔🧪

Sebuah kiriman dibagikan oleh Miquela (@lilmiquela) pada

Taken from cultured, Lil Miquela is an Instagram celebrity who meticulously documents her life in Los Angeles, championing progressive politics and luxury fashion. The only catch is that she’s more cyborg than California girl.

Since the creation of Lil Miquela, there are more and more virtual influencers created, such as Laila Blue (@chasing.laila), Noonoouri (@noonoouri), Imma (@imma.gram), Bermuda (@bermudaisbae), Blawko (@blawko22), Shudu (@shudu.gram) and Koffi (@koffi.gram). Although they differ in personality, they have one thing in common: they are a non-human alternative to influencers.

Indonesia also has its own virtual influencers. One famous name is Thalasya (@thalasya_). She is modeled after a typical Indonesian influencer, posting Instagramable pictures of herself in cafes and tourist attraction sites. She had also collaborated with human influencers, such as Raditya Dika, Gilang Dirga, Andika Pratama and Igor Saykoji. She even had become Chocolatos (@chocolatos_id) brand ambassador, occasionally posting photos of herself eating the snack.

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I sing for ice cream 💗🍦🎵 #singer #icecream #bali #beach #thisisbali

Sebuah kiriman dibagikan oleh Thalasya Official Acc (@thalasya_) pada

Predicting the trend

Despite the multiplying numbers of virtual influencers, it is too early to tell whether they would take over from real human influencers. Izea has described these virtual influencers as brands solution to current influencers problem.

“Scandals involving influencers are now a normal part of the pop culture conversation. From PewDiePie and Logan Paul to Olivia Jade Giannulli, big-name YouTubers and other social media stars have made headlines for missteps and social faux-pas. The tearful apology video has become a genre unto itself. Chances are that this trend is here to stay — so long as influencers are real people who can make major mistakes. Virtual influencers are a non-human alternative that may prove appealing to some brands.”

However, some had dismissed virtual influencer trend as just another fad. No matter how similar they look to a human being, virtual influencers missed one key feature of influencer marketing: the ability to build trust. Their recommendation is not as trustworthy as they can’t tell you how a fabric feels when it touches your skin nor how a moisturizer feels on your skin.

In the meantime, it would be exciting to follow and watch them as they grow and keep a close eye on potential collaboration in the future.